The first IndyCar test of the new year for Kyle Kirkwood had a familiar result, with the reigning Indy Lights champion sitting atop the unofficial times at Sebring International Raceway’s short circuit.
The Floridian was one of three drivers to sample the popular testing loop that avoid most of Sebring’s notorious bumps, and when the day was over, Kirkwood’s lap of 52.769s in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy was faster than Team Penske’s Dane Cameron (52.841s) and new Foyt teammate Tatiana Calderon in the No. 11 Chevy (53.250s).
Kirkwood completed 74 laps on his fourth IndyCar test while triple IMSA champion Cameron, who was making his IndyCar test debut, turned 76, and Calderon, who conducted her second IndyCar test with the team, completed 57 tours.
“From what everyone’s been saying, the Foyt team hasn’t had any success and it’s all negative, but honestly, I was quite surprised on how good we got the car today,” Kirkwood told RACER after working with veteran race engineer Mike Colliver.
“We started off pretty reasonable. But by the end of the day, I really couldn’t tell a massive difference between the car that I drove today and the [Andretti Autosport Honda] that I drove here in the fall. So I think we’re in a good place. Chemistry was good.”
Kirkwood’s first test with Foyt gave the 23-year-old a chance to work through a long list of items and get accustomed to the power delivery characteristics of the twin-turbo V6 Chevy engine he’ll put to you while chasing Rookie of the Year honors.
“I had to knock a little bit of rust off, and to start off, I had a spin for the first time I went to full throttle,” he said. “I’m learning the difference between Honda and Chevy; it’s very aggressive on-throttle, and I think there’s a bit more power lower in the RPMs, which is something we’re working with a little bit for drivability.
“We worked on a couple of damper options that that the team has been working with over the winter and on the shaker rig, and with some new personnel that are developing it. And we seemed to find quite a bit of grip and we were really happy with it. There was a bit of a ‘light switch’ situation with what we found, which is always positive. We also did some fuel economy runs, which is something that I haven’t done before in IndyCar, but I’ve done in IMSA with the Lexus. And then we’re trying to we’re helping out Chevrolet with some with systems stuff as well, so we got through a lot of items today and it was definitely good.”
Although they spent most of the day in separate camps, Kirkwood said it was great to have Calderon in the No. 11 Chevy as the newest member of the Foyt program.
“We actually didn’t get time to bounce things off of each other, but I think it’s nice having somebody like her on board because we’re both learning at the same time as rookies,” he said. “We both met a lot of the people we’ll be working with today. It’s definitely positive to have Tatiana here, and she I think she got to grips with the car pretty well. Really happy to have her as a teammate.”